My aunt used to ask me, "how do you eat an elephant?" when I was flustered.
"I don't know" I'd sneer.
"One bite at a time."
And so it is with woodworking projects.
In the above picture is an elegant pedestal dining table. One might suspect it to be made of the finest wood and at a professional shop with thousands of dollars of tools. That would be a good guess but wrong. The style of this table was picked by a client and the wood I pulled off of the shelf at a local home center. She had a budget and reclaimed barn wood just wasn't in the cards.
And the shop full of tools? Nope. This table was made in my garage with fairly common tools. In a moment I'll get into the material list and cut list (and why the cut list matters) but let's start with the tools used to create this table.
- Circular saw.
- Miter saw (also known as a chop saw)
- Cordless Drill/Driver
- Kreg Pocket hole jig
-36" bar clamps (4-6)
- Safety glasses
- Palm or Random Orbital Sander
- 16 or 18 gauge nail gun
- sand paper (60 grit, 120 grit, 180 grit)
Step 1 - Materials Selection
Your table will only be as good as the wood you select. With the table we're building, common framing lumber is used. It might take a bit more time in the lumber yard to get good, straight boards but it is time well spent. it will save frustration later and a heck of a lot of sanding!
What to Buy
1- 2"x 2"x 8'
2- 2"x 2"x 8'
1- 1"x 3"x 8'
6- 1"x 6"x 8'
2-1"x 2"x 10'
1-1"x 2"x 8'
1- 2"x 8"x 8'
3- 2"x 4"x 8'
2- 2"x 4"x 10'
1- 2"x 6"x 8'
3- 2"x 6"x 10'
wood screws (2'1/2" and 3")
1-1/4" pocket hole screws
Step 2 - Cut List
Now that all the wood has been collected and sorted it's time to go to the cut list. Over the years I've come to believe it's much easier to cut all my pieces at the beginning. Once cut, I put them in stacks that go together. For example, once the pedestal leg pieces are cut, I stack all that I need for each leg in a pile. Should I get interupted while working I can walk back in the shop and find what I need fairly easily.
6- 2 x 4 x 21-3/4"
6- 2 x 4 x 8-1/8"
6- 2 x 6 x 34-3/4" (ends cut at 45 degree bevel. Measured long to long)
12- 2 x 8 x 7-14" (cut in an arch)
3- 2 x 6 x 36" (ends cut at a 30 degree bevel. Measured long to long)
3- 2 x 6 x 36-1/2"
6- 1 x 3 x 5-1/2"
1- 2 x 6 x 90-1/2"
12- 1 x 6 x 47-3/4"
2- 2 x 4 x 106"
3- 2 x 4 x 33"
2- 1 x 2 x 102-1/2"
2- 1 x 2 x 39-1/2"
2- 2 x 2 x 103"
2- 2 x 2 x 40"
Step 3 - Assembly
Assemble each leg completely before moving onto the next. This helps keep them together. Once assembled I do my rough sand on each leg (60 grit) before I assemble. There are so many angles and faces to the legs it is much more difficult to get a good sand when the table is assembled.
Once the legs are all together, install the stretcher (pictured). Now the base is set! Time to move on to the top.
With the table top it is very important to lay out the pieces on a flat surface face up. You want to see what the top in going to look like and, if you finish with a lighter stain than I did, you'll be glad you paid close attention to the grain pattern.
After the top looks good turn all pieces over, being careful not to get them out of order. On the bottom of the pieces, mark where your pocket holes are going to go as well as number the pieces.
When complete, set on the leg assembly and secure with screws.
Step 4 - Sand and Stain
This is the stage of any woodworking project most of us rush and that's a shame because it truly is the most important step. A good stain comes from a good sanding and that takes time.
Start with 60 grit and get the high points knocked down and corners eased. Pay special attention to the exposed end grain. This is often the toughest part to get smooth. When you're satisfied with that, take a cloth (old t-shirts work great here because they don't "shed"), get it wet and then wring it out completely. With that lightly damp cloth go over the entire table.
Give that just a few minutes to dry and then sand with the 120 grit paper this time. Repeat above.
Because of the type of wood we selected the stain will turn out quite uneven and splotchy. One way to cure that is with a wood conditioner. Once that is applied don't let it dry too long before applying the stain.
Once the stain has had time to dry (overnight to be safe) it's time to start clear coats. I use good old satin polyuerthane. If you want the table to be durable, five coats on the top and two on the bottom and legs. Between each application a gentle sanding with 180-200 grit paper is required.
After the final coat dries you're ready to enjoy family meals, holiday gatherings or fantasy football nights.